We have an inflatable pool in the garden. Alan, the water rat, is hard to keep out of the water. He's having one great summer here in Ostheim! He just misses his Dad a lot (he has bouts of mumbling "Papa, Papa, Papa" and looking around) but otherwise, he couldn't be better.
Alan loves cherries. He also loves picking cherries. He does not yet understand not to swallow the stones, though.
Anyhow, my parents have some cherry trees in their garden and it's a very good year for cherries. They're hanging on the trees in abundance, dark red and gleaming in the sunshine. They are firm yet juicy and have a sweet, wonderful flavor. It's funny how once one starts picking and eating cherries from the trees, standing on a ladder or just reaching up on tiptoes, one does not seem to be able to stop before the stomach aches.
The ants love the cherries, too. I wonder, do their stomaches ache also?
The move arrived on Tuesday, a day before I left for Germany. I had enough time to unpack those things that I needed urgently (i.e. my bathing suit) and leave Doug with 50+ unpacked boxes. He's doing his best and he's got about two months or so to do it. The toaster is already in the kitchen. :-)
Of course the move did not arrive. Who were we kidding?
And no, the stuff has not been here in Bucharest as we had been told. The truck, which was packed and sent off a day late, for no apparent reason, got hold up at the border. Not that anybody bothered to tell us. The truck will arrive in Bucharest tonight - MAYBE - and then go through customs tomorrow - MAYBE. And here the Romanians insist that they do not belong to the Balkans. Hah. I have a very different take on that.
I'm also very dubious about this "it will come tomorrow". Very.
The toaster goes into the kitchen, btw.
So we're getting ready to move into the new place.
Oh, we're already in it. But our stuff hasn't arrived yet, so we're sort of camping out here.
When will our stuff arrive? Ah hah, well. Our stuff has actually already arrived, in the sense that it's already here in Bucharest... somewhere. But it has to clear Romanian Customs before it can be delivered to our new place.
When will it clear Romanian Customs? Well... maybe tomorrow. And then again, maybe not. It's going to be sort of a paper race. If we have all the necessary documentation by noon tomorrow, it will go. Probably. If not, not.
This is not entirely within our control. One of the key documents comes out of USAID; it's the one that says, in essence, "Treat these people nicely, please, because they're working for the US government. Thank you." It's a potent charm and talisman. Unfortunately, it has to be signed by several different people at USAID, and as of 6 pm Friday not everyone had signed yet. So you can guess where I'll be calling at about 9:02 tomorrow (Monday) morning.
Other than that, things are going OK. The new place is gradually revealing itself to us, as new places do once you start living in them a bit...
When in Rome, do as the Romans do, right? But sometimes you find yourself craving that particular home feeling that comes with a good glass of beer or some grilled sausages with sauerkraut. If this happens to you in Bucharest, there is no better place to go than the "Deutsche Kneipe" on Str. Stockholm. It's shockingly German. The food, the decor, the radio station, the beergarden (complete with garden gnomes), and the patrons are all very German. So are the prices, at least in comparison to other establishments in Bucharest, but the food is quite good and the portions big, the service fast and very friendly and the beer is German and cold. And hey, it's only a few steps from our house! What's not to like?
It's really hot here. I'm beginning to think that it's not such a good idea to be in the third trimester in June/July. I'm dreaming of a pool. It's said that the French village has a "Club" (pronounced French, please) which boasts a pool. I will have to investigate that. I'm very grateful that our apartment (and the new house) has air conditioning. Drip, drip, drip...
That's our new address in Bucharest. I will post some pictures as soon as the move with the USB cable for my digital camera has arrived - so let me just quickly sketch the main characteristics.
It's an apartment in a villa, although from the look of it, you'd think it's the entire villa. We have the main entry, amidst flower beds, lilacs and a wildly growing vine with real grapes on it. There is a little courtyard where Alan (and his brother?) can roam around a bit -- the park is also not far away. On the first floor there are living/dining room, the kitchen with a pantry and a toilet. Second floor are three bedrooms (well, two bedrooms and a study, really) and two bathrooms. One of the bathrooms has a shower, the other one has a bathtub. There is also a little balcony on the second floor. The rooms are very high (about 12 feet) and the entire house has parquet floors. The rooms aren't very big but the general feeling is of airiness and lightness. I fell completely in love with it the moment I saw it. I think we will be very happy there.
The location is also very good - just five minutes by foot from Doug's office and right next to one of the busier streets of Bucharest, somewhat north of the center. We have quick access to the road to the airport and the big supermarkets. The park with a big lake and several playgrounds is just ten minutes by foot and there is plenty of shopping around, including a 24-hour supermarket. The neighboorhood consists entirely of old villas and mansions and how we got this house, that used to be rented out for 3750 Euros, for $2500, I don't know. The landlord belongs to the German minority here in Romania, maybe that had something to do with it.
In any case, we have living quarters now and will begin to live there starting next week. Next steps are: get permanent visas and our move going (only with a lease can you get a permanent visa and only with a permanent visa can you import your move). Get internet hook-up. Get settled a bit. Have my Mom, who will arrive next Monday, help me shop for little items and select curtains and such.
We are very happy with our find. So - who's going to come and visit us, then?
So today Alan and I got stuck in the elevator of our temporary quarters. Between two floors, with the classic view of the concrete floor and half a door below it and half a door above it. I pushed all the various buttons available, hoping that I wouldn't need the alarm button. I tried opening either of the doors which didn't work - to my relief, actually. I didn't want those doors to open, fearing I'd be tempted to crawl out just when the elevator started moving again. Severed spine and all that. Too much TV, I know.
Well, nothing budged. I rang the alarm bell and... nothing happened. I mean, the alarm bell rang but no reassuring voice spoke out of the loudspeaker (which, btw, I couldn't see anywhere anyway). For the first time that I ever pushed the alarm button it was very anticlimactic.
Next step: I banged against the lower door until the guys from "Alarm Service" who have their office right next to the elevator door finally deemed to look what all the ruckus was about. The first guy only spoke Romanian and left again to get another guy who spoke some English and together they managed to inquire why I was banging the door.
In a hurry and not much time -- just letting the world know that we arrived well and survived (with some dignity) our first encounter with the famous hustlers of Bucharest (them being the luggage carriers at the Gara du Nord).
We found an internet cafe just around the corner from where we live - with an astonishingly fast connection! - so expect some more soon!
[Doug here] We took the overnight train, which leaves Belgrade around 6 pm, crosses the border at about 8:30, and then rolls on through the night to arrive in Bucharest at 7:15 the following morning.
Our experiences of the ride were... varied.
After the border formailites, everybody went into their cabins and it got very quiet. I leaned out the window for a little while, looking at the stars and watching the vast empty plain of the Banat go by in the darkness. Then I climbed into the upper berth, read a good book for an hour (_Dark Star_ by Alan Furst, and thank you Carlos for recommending it), lay awake for a little while listening to the sound of the train, and finally fell into a deep and healing slumber.
Natasha, our baby sitter, had the next compartment to herself. Unfortunately, it was her first time leaving Yugoslavia, /and/ her first time in a sleeper car, and I guess it was all just too strange; poor Natasha didn't fall asleep until far into the night and was distinctly woozy today.